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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Workers’ Holiday Celebrated Around the World

In cities all over the globe people took to the streets today to celebrate May Day, the international worker’s holiday. In Athens, Greece unions called for a 24-hour general strike to protest the Government’s austerity policies. Just this weekend the Greek parliament cut over 15,000 civil servant jobs in order to secure the next installment of an $11 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. In Dhaka, Bangladesh celebrations were somber but well attended as marchers continued to demand increased bargaining rights and punishment of factory owners who neglect the safety of their workers. Bangladesh is the world’s second-largest manufacturer of textile goods, but the average Bangladeshi textile worker makes less than $45 a month. In Istanbul, Turkey several protesters were injured as they attempted to enter Taksim Square; demonstrators were met with firehoses, rubber bullets, and teargas canisters as government officials attempted to seal off the area. Taksim Square was the site of a clash between socialist, maoist, and government forces on May Day in 1977. “Turkish govt shamed in eyes of world. Hearts and minds of workers will not forget today’s oppression,” tweeted Sharan Burrow general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, who attended today’s protest. Rome and Madrid saw scores of thousands of demonstrators take the streets, demanding government action against the endemic unemployment rates in the two countries. The Pope gave his weekly address on the same issue, saying, “a society that fails to pay a fair wage or one that seeks only personal profit is unjust and goes against God.” Havana, Cuba saw record turn-out for its peaceful Mayday celebration in tribute to the memory of Cuban ally Hugo Chavez, who died on March 5th. “We pay special homage to the unforgettable commander Hugo Chavez Frias and express our deepest affection and admiration for that giant,” said Cuban Vice President Salvador Valdes Mesa. Cuban workers are paid on average $19 a month but are given significant social benefits by the government.

Evidence Shows Nigerian Army Lied About Its Role in Baga Fires

New satellite imagery shows that over 2000 homes were destroyed in the fires in Baga, Nigeria, contrary to earlier reports from the military. Military commanders had said 30 houses caught fire during a battle with Boko Haram forces in the remote fishing community on the shores of Lake Chad last month. But Baga residents told Human Rights Watch (HRW) that soldiers systematically ransacked the town in an attempt to surround members of Boko Haram in a mosque after a Nigerian solider was killed. “The Nigerian military has a duty to protect itself and the population from Boko Haram attacks, but the evidence indicates that it engaged more in destruction than in protection,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The glaring discrepancies between the facts on the ground and statements by senior military officials raise concerns that they tried to cover up military abuses.” In an official statement, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan described the incident in Baga as “most regrettable and unfortunate,” but in the statement “he reaffirmed his full commitment to doing all within the powers of the federal government to speedily end the intolerable threats to national security which have necessitated such confrontations.”

French Mujahid Captured in Mali

French troops captured French Mujahid Abdel Jelil, né Gilles Le Guen, just north of Timbuktu. Jelil had been fighting with jihadist forces in Mali for some time, with reports suggesting he had joined with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) when they occupied Timbuktu. Though Jelil is committed to Islamic governance, having said, “I am following the road traced by Osama bin Laden” to French press in the past, there is evidence to suggest he does not fully agree with AQIM’s extreme version of sharia law. According to Timbuktu public figure Diadie Hamadoun Maiga, “Gilles Le Guen won a lot of points with us because he took our side [non-extremism]… One day he even burst into the prison and liberated women that had been arrested.” Jelil was jailed by AQIM officials in Timbuktu shortly after that incident in November. France’s Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has indicated that French troops will turn Jelil over to Malian authorities, where he expects Jelil will be expelled to France.

Court Says Ukrainian Ex-PM’s Jailing Unjust

Europe’s Human Rights Court in Strasbourg ruled that Ukraine’s jailing of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is a politically motivated violation of her rights. This comes as a rebuke for Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych who maintains that the prosecution of the top member of his opposition was not political. Tymoshenko, a leader in 2004′s pro-democracy Orange Revolution, was sentenced to seven years in prison in October 2011, convicted of exceeding her powers as PM while negotiating a gas contract with Russia. The Strasbourg-based court unanimously agreed Tymoshenko’s jailing was “for other reasons” than those permissible by law. Ukraine’s Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe, Mykola Tochytskyi, stormed out of the courthouse after the ruling, but otherwise Kiev’s government has given little reaction. A spokesperson for the Ukrainian government suggested they might appeal the decision, but they only have three months to do so.

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